February is American Heart Month, and it’s a great opportunity to focus on adopting a healthier lifestyle to prevent cardiovascular disease. Proper nutrition can play a huge role in building a resilient heart, which is why it is important to make healthy food choices, be active, manage stress and embrace a plant-based diet.
CulinArt Dietitian Laura Martorano hosts exciting “Wellness Wednesday” pop-ups at dining locations across campus to promote nutrition and wellness to students, faculty and staff. “At this month’s events, I want to share information about how a heart-healthy diet begins by choosing more fruits, vegetables and foods with whole grains and healthy proteins and eating less foods with added sugar, calories and unhealthy fats,” explains Martorano. Wellness Wednesdays offer an opportunity to sample new foods and meet one-on-one with the dietitian.
Celebrate heart-health month, and bring home a fun and easy way to make a healthy snack made with fresh ingredients. The Emporium at East Side and the Market at West Side convenience stores will be offering DIY Guac-in-a-Box kits to make your own guacamole with pre-portioned ingredients and an easy step-by-step recipe. “Avocados can be part of your heart-healthy diet because they are rich in soluble fiber and healthy fats,” states Martorano.
Top Three Heart Healthy Eating Tips
- Eat more fiber. Dietary fiber can help lower cholesterol, saturated fats and excess sodium with your body. It can be found in oatmeal, whole-grain cereals such as Cheerios, brown rice, quinoa, legumes, seeds, and multi-grain crackers and breads. A new grain bar has been added to East Side and West Side dine-in as an easy way to incorporate more plant-based proteins into your diet. These new and exciting flavors and textures at the grain bar include two naturally gluten-free grains, whole grains, legumes and lentils.
- Build a colorful plate. Choose foods high in antioxidants such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds because antioxidants can decrease the inflammation that causes oxidative damage impacting the strength and quality of your cardiovascular system. Building a plate with lots of colorful foods can be a great step toward consuming more antioxidants. You can start by swapping one meal to a simple salad that contains spinach, shredded carrots, tomatoes, dried nuts and fresh fruit such as blueberries or strawberries. East Side and West Side dine-in have a dedicated vegan station called “Rooted” that offers many globally inspired cuisines and center-of-the-plate worthy menu options that are focused on wellness and sustainability.
- Add heart healthy fats to your diet. Heart-healthy fats also reduce inflammation and are a good protective barrier from the unhealthy foods that contain excess sugar, salt, preservatives and toxins. Foods such as avocados, almonds and walnuts are fresh and healthy choices that are rich in antioxidants to protect against inflammation, which can directly contribute to heart disease and risks for a heart attack or stroke. Mediterranean diets have become popular because they provide ample heart-healthy fats found in fish, hummus, legumes and olive oils.